The Temple: Its Ministry and Services

Alfred Edersheim

Chapter 11
The Passover

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The Passover, The Temple, Mishnah, Slaying the Lamb, The Egyptian Hallel, Celebrated by Jesus.

The Passover --Difference between the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Its Peculiarities

Special Nature of the Passover --Threefold reference of the Passover to nature, history, and grace--Time of the Passover

Origin of the Name --Meaning of the term Pesach--Difference between the so-called 'Egyptian' and the 'Permanent Passover'

Institution of the Passover

Directions in the Mishnah

Scripture Records of the Feast

Later Celebrations

The Preparations for the Passover

The Custom of Modern Days

The Three Things --The first and the second Chagigah--The 'eve of the Passover'

Special Preparations --Search for, and removal of all leaven--What constituted leaven

Time of its Commencement --Commencement of the feast on the forenoon of the 14th Nisan--At what hour it became duty to abstain from leaven, and how it was intimated

Choice of the Lamb --Selection of the Paschal Lamb

Slaying of the Lamb --At what hour it was slain--Division of the offerers into three companies--Mode of sacrificing the Paschal Lamb

The 'Hallel' --The singing of the 'Hallel'--Why it was called the Egyptian Hallel

Completion of the Sacrifice --How the lambs were prepared after sacrifice

Our Lord's Celebration of the Feast --The disciples preparing the Passover for the Master.


The Passover TOP

The cycle of Temple-festivals appropriately opens with 'the Passover' and 'Feast of Unleavened Bread.' For, properly speaking, these two are quite distinct (Lev 23:5,6; Num 28:16,17; 2 Chron 30:15,21; Ezra 6:19,22; Mark 14:1), the 'Passover' taking place on the 14th of Nisan, and the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread' commencing on the 15th, and lasting for seven days, to the 21st of the month (Exo 12:15). But from their close connection they are generally treated as one, both in the Old and in the New Testament (Matt 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:1); and Josephus, on one occasion, even describes it as 'a feast for eight days' (Antiq. ii. 15, 1; but comp. iii. 10, 5; ix. 13, 3).

Its Peculiarities TOP

There are peculiarities about the Passover which mark it as the most important, and, indeed, take it out of the rank of the other festivals. It was the first of the three feasts on which all males in Israel were bound to appear before the Lord in the place which He would choose (the two others being the Feast of Weeks and that of Tabernacles [Exo 23:14; 34:18-23; Lev 23:4-22; Deut 16:16]). All the three great festivals bore a threefold reference. They pointed, first, to the season of the year, or rather to the enjoyment of the fruits of the good land which the Lord had given to His people in possession, but of which He claimed for Himself the real ownership (Lev 25:23; Psa 85:1; Isa 8:8; 14:2; Hosea 9:3). This reference to nature is expressly stated in regard to the Feast of Weeks and that of Tabernacles (Exo 23:14-16; 34:22), but, though not less distinct, it is omitted in connection with the feast of unleavened bread. On the other hand, great prominence is given to the historical bearing of the Passover, while it is not mentioned in the other two festivals, although it could not have been wholly wanting. But the feast of unleavened bread celebrated the one grand event which underlay the whole history of Israel, and marked alike their miraculous deliverance from destruction and from bondage, and the commencement of their existence as a nation. For in the night of the Passover the children of Israel, miraculously preserved and set free, for the first time became a people, and that by the direct interposition of God. The third bearing of all the festivals, but especially of the Passover, is typical. Every reader of the New Testament knows how frequent are such allusions to the Exodus, the Paschal Lamb, the Paschal Supper, and the feast of unleavened bread. And that this meaning was intended from the first, not only in reference to the Passover, but to all the feasts, appears from the whole design of the Old Testament, and from the exact correspondence between the types and the antitypes. Indeed, it is, so to speak, impressed upon the Old Testament by a law of internal necessity. For when God bound up the future of all nations in the history of Abraham and his seed (Gen 12:3), He made that history prophetic; and each event and every rite became, as it were, a bud, destined to open in blossom and ripen into fruit on that tree under the shadow of which all nations were to be gathered.

Special Nature of the Passover TOP

Thus nature, history, and grace combined to give a special meaning to the festivals, but chiefly to the Passover. It was the feast of spring; the spring-time of nature, when, after the death of winter, the scattered seeds were born into a new harvest, and the first ripe sheaf could be presented to the Lord; the spring-time of Israel's history, too, when each year the people celebrated anew their national birthday; and the spring-time of grace, their grand national deliverance pointing forward to the birth of the true Israel, and the Passover sacrifice to that 'Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' Accordingly, the month of the Passover, Abib, or, as it was called in later times, Nisan, * was to be unto them 'the beginning of months'--the birth-month of the sacred, and at the same time the seventh in the civil year.

* Abib is the month of 'sprouting' or of 'green ears.' Esther 3:7; Nehemiah 2:1.

Here we mark again the significance of seven as the sacred or covenant number. On the other hand, the Feast of Tabernacles, which closed the festive cycle, took place on the 15th of the seventh month of the sacred, which was also the first in the civil, year. Nor is it less significant that both the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles fell upon the 15th day of the month; that is, at full moon, or when the month had, so to speak, attained its full strength.

Origin of the Name TOP

The name of the Passover, in Hebrew Pesach, and in Aramean and Greek Pascha, is derived from a root which means to 'step over,' or to 'overleap,' and thus points back to the historical origin of the festival (Exo 12). But the circumstances in which the people were placed necessarily rendered its first celebration, in some particulars, different from its later observance, which, so far as possible, was brought into harmony with the general Temple practice. Accordingly, Jewish authorities rightly distinguish between 'the Egyptian' and the 'Permanent Passover.' On its first institution it was ordained that the head of every house should, on the 10th of Nisan, select either a lamb or a kid of the goats, of the first year, and without blemish. Later Jewish ordinances, dating after the return from Babylon, limit it to a lamb; and it is explained that the four days previous to the slaying of the lamb referred to the four generations that had passed after the children of Israel went down into Egypt. The lamb was to be killed on the eve of the 14th, or rather, as the phrase, is, 'between the two evenings' (Exo 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 9:3,5). According to the Samaritans, the Karaite Jews, and many modern interpreters, this means between actual sunset and complete darkness (or, say, between six and seven p.m.); but from the contemporary testimony of Josephus (Jew. Wars, vi. 9, 3), and from Talmudical authorities, there cannot be a doubt that, at the time of our Lord, it was regarded as the interval between the sun's commencing to decline and his actual disappearance. This allows a sufficient period for the numerous lambs which had to be killed, and agrees with the traditional account that on the eve of the Passover the daily evening sacrifice was offered an hour, or, if it fell on a Friday, two hours, before the usual time.

Institution of the Passover TOP

In the original institution the blood of the sacrifice was to be sprinkled with hyssop on the lintel and the two doorposts of the house, probably as being the most prominent place of entrance. Then the whole animal, without breaking a bone of it, was to be roasted, and eaten by each family--or, if the number of its members were too small, by two neighbouring families--along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, to symbolise the bitterness of their bondage and the haste of their deliverance, and also to point forward to the manner in which the true Israel were in all time to have fellowship in the Paschal Lamb (1 Cor 5:7,8). All who were circumcised were to partake of this meal, and that arrayed as for a journey; and whatsoever was not consumed was to be burnt on the spot. These ordinances in regard to the Passover were afterwards modified during the journey in the wilderness to the effect, that all males were to appear 'in the place which the Lord shall choose,' and there alike to sacrifice and to eat the lamb or kid, bringing at the same time also another offering with them (Exo 34:18-20; Deut 16:2,16,17). Lastly, it was also ordered that if any man were unclean at the time of the regular Passover, or 'in a journey afar off,' he should celebrate it a month later (Num 9:9-11).

Directions in the Mishnah TOP

The Mishnah (Pes. ix. 5) contains the following, as the distinctions between the 'Egyptian' and the 'Permanent' Passover: 'The Egyptian Passover was selected on the 10th, and the blood was to be sprinkled with a sprig of hyssop on the lintel and the two door-posts, and it was to be eaten in haste in the first night; but the Permanent Passover is observed all the seven days'; i.e. the use of unleavened cakes was, on its first observance, enjoined only for that one night, though, from Israel's haste, it must, for several days, have been the only available bread; while afterwards its exclusive use was ordered during the whole week. Similarly, also, the journey of the children of Israel commenced on the 15th of Nisan, while in after-times that day as observed as a festival like a Sabbath (Exo 12:16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). To these distinctions the following are also added (Tos. Pes. viii): In Egypt the Passover was selected on the 10th, and killed on the 14th, and they did not, on account of the Passover, incur the penalty of 'cutting off,' as in later generations; of the Egyptian Passover it was said, 'Let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it,' while afterwards the Passover-companies might be indiscriminately chosen; in Egypt it was not ordered to sprinkle the blood and burn the fat on the altar, as afterwards; at the firs Passover it was said, 'None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning,' which did not apply to later times; in Egypt it was slain by every one in his own house, while afterwards it was slain by all Israel in one place; lastly, formerly where they ate the Passover, there they lodged, but afterwards they might eat it in one, and lodge in another place.

Scripture Records of the Feast TOP

Scripture records that the Passover was kept the second year after the Exodus (Num 9:1-5), and then not again till the Israelites actually reached the promised land (Josh 5:10); but, as the Jewish commentators rightly observe, this intermission was directed by God Himself (Exo 12:25; 13:5). After that, public celebrations of the Passover are only mentioned once during the reign of Solomon (2 Chron 8:13), again under that of Hezekiah (2 Chron 30:15), at the time of Josiah (2 Kings 23:21), and once more after the return from Babylon under Ezra (Ezra 6:19). On the other hand, a most significant allusion to the typical meaning of the Passover-blood, as securing immunity from destruction, occurs in the prophecies of Ezekiel (Eze 9:4-6), where 'the man clothed with linen' is directed to 'set a mark upon the foreheads' of the godly (like the first Passover-mark), so that they who were to 'slay utterly old and young' might not 'come near any' of them. The same symbolic reference and command occur in the Book of Revelation (Rev 7:2,3; 9:4), in regard to those who have been 'sealed as the servants of our God in their foreheads.'

Later Celebrations TOP

But the inference that the Passover was only celebrated on the occasions actually mentioned in Scripture seems the less warranted, that in later times it was so punctiliously and universally observed. We can form a sufficiently accurate idea of all the circumstances attending it at the time of our Lord. On the 14th of Nisan every Israelite who was physically able, not in a state of Levitical uncleanness, nor further distant from the city than fifteen miles, was to appear in Jerusalem. Though women were not legally obliged to go up, we know from Scripture (1 Sam 1:3-7; Luke 2:41,42), and from the rules laid down by Jewish authorities (Jos. Wars, vi. 9-3; and Mishnah Pes. ix. 4, for ex.), that such was the common practice. Indeed, it was a joyous time for all Israel. From all parts of the land and from foreign countries the festive pilgrims had come up in bands, singing their pilgrim psalms, and bringing with them burnt- and peace-offerings, according as the Lord had blessed them; for none might appear empty before Him (Exo 23:15; Deut 16:16,17). How large the number of worshippers was, may be gathered from Josephus, who records that, when Cestius requested the high-priest to make a census, in order to convince Nero of the importance of Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation, the number of lambs slain was found to be 256,500, which, at the lowest computation of ten persons to every sacrificial lamb, would give a population of 2,565,000, or, as Josephus himself puts it, 2,700,200 persons, while on an earlier occasion (AD 65) he computes the number present at not fewer than three millions (Jew. Wars, vi. 9, 3; ii. 14, 3). *

* These computations, being derived from official documents, can scarcely have been much exaggerated. Indeed, Josephus expressly guards himself against this charge.

Of course, many of these pilgrims must have camped outside the city walls. *

* It is deeply interesting that the Talmud (Pes. 53) specially mentions Bethphage and Bethany as celebrated for their hospitality towards the festive pilgrims.

Those who lodged within the walls were gratuitously accommodated, and in return left to their hosts the skins of the Passover lambs and the vessels which they had used in their sacred services. In such festive 'company' the parents of Jesus went to, and returned from this feast 'every year,' taking their 'holy child' with them, after He had attained the age of twelve--strictly in accordance with Rabbinical law (Yoma, 82a)--when He remained behind, 'sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions' (Luke 2:41-49). We know that the Lord Himself afterwards attended the Paschal feast, and that on the last occasion He was hospitably entertained in Jerusalem, apparently by a disciple (Matt 26:18; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13), although he seems to have intended spending the night outside the city walls (Matt 26:30,36; Mark 14:26,32: Luke 22:39; John 18:1).

The Preparations for the Passover TOP

But the preparations for the Passover had begun long before the 14th of Nisan. Already a month previously (on the 15th of Adar), bridges and roads had been repaired for the use of the pilgrims. That was also the time for administering the testing draught to women suspected of adultery, for burning the red heifer, and for boring the ears of those who wished to remain in servitude--in short, for making all kinds of preliminary arrangements before the festive season began. One of these is specially interesting as recalling the words of the Saviour. In general, cemeteries were outside the cities; but any dead body found in the field was (according to an ordinance which tradition traces up to Joshua) to be buried on the spot where it had been discovered. Now, as the festive pilgrims might have contracted 'uncleanness' by unwitting contact with such graves, it was ordered that all 'sepulchres' should be 'whitened' a month before the Passover. It was, therefore, evidently in reference to what He actually saw going on around Him at the time He spoke, that Jesus compared the Pharisees 'unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness' (Matt 23:27). Then, two weeks before Pesach, and at the corresponding time before the other two great festivals, the flocks and herds were to be tithed, and also the Temple treasury-chests publicly opened and emptied. Lastly, we know that 'many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves' (John 11:55). It is this practice which finds its spiritual application in regard to the better Passover, when, in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor 11:27,28), 'whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.'

The Custom of Modern Days TOP

The modern synagogue designates the Sabbath before the Passover as 'the Great Sabbath,' and prescribes particular prayers and special instruction with a view to the coming festival. For, according to Jewish tradition, at the original institution of the Passover (Exo 12:3), the 10th of Nisan, on which the sacrifice was to be selected, had fallen on a Sabbath. But there is no evidence that either the name or the observance of this 'Great Sabbath' had been in use at the time of our Lord, although it was enjoined to teach the people in the various synagogues about the Passover during the month which preceded the festival. There is also a significant tradition that some were wont to select their sacrificial lamb four days before the Passover, and to keep it tied in a prominent place within view, so as constantly to remind them of the coming service.

The Three Things TOP

We have already explained that according to the Rabbis (Chag. ii, 1; vi. 2), three things were implied in the festive command to 'appear before the Lord'--'Presence,' the 'Chagigah,' and 'Joyousness.' As specially applied to the Passover, the first of these terms meant, that every one was to come up to Jerusalem and to offer a burnt-offering, if possible on the first, or else on one of the other six days of the feast. This burnt-offering was to be taken only from 'Cholin' (or profane substance), that is, from such as did not otherwise belong to the Lord, either as tithes, firstlings, or things devoted, etc. The Chagigah, which was strictly a peace-offering, might be twofold. This first Chagigah was offered on the 14th of Nisan, the day of the Paschal sacrifice, and formed afterwards part of the Paschal Supper. The second Chagigah was offered on the 15th of Nisan, or the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. It is this second Chagigah which the Jews were afraid they might be unable to eat, if they contracted defilement in the judgment-hall of Pilate (John 18:28). In reference to the first Chagigah, the Mishnah lays down the rule, that it was only to be offered if the Paschal day fell on a week-day, not on a Sabbath, and if the Paschal lamb alone would not have been sufficient to give a satisfying supper to the company which gathered around it (Pes. vi. 4). As in the case of all other peace-offerings, part of this Chagigah might be kept, though not for longer than one night and two days from its sacrifice. Being a voluntary offering, it was lawful to bring it from sacred things (such as tithes of the flock). But the Chagigah for the 15th of Nisan was obligatory, and had therefore to be brought from 'Cholin.' The third duty incumbent on those who appeared at the feast was 'joyousness.' This expression, as we have seen, simply referred to the fact that, according to their means, all Israel were, during the course of this festival, with joyous heart to offer peace-offerings, which might be chosen from sacred things (Deut 27:7). Thus the sacrifices which every Israelite was to offer at the Passover were, besides his share in the Paschal lamb, a burnt-offering, the Chagigah (one or two), and offerings of joyousness--all as God had blessed each household. As stated in a previous chapter, all the twenty-four courses, into which the priests were arranged, ministered in the temple on this, as on the other great festivals, and they distributed among themselves alike what fell to them of the festive sacrifices and the shewbread. But the course which, in its proper order, was on duty for the week, alone offered all votive, and voluntary, and the public sacrifices for the whole congregation, such as those of the morning and the evening (Succah v. 7).

Special Preparations TOP

The special preparations for the Passover commenced on the evening of the 13th of Nisan, with which, according to Jewish reckoning, the 14th began, the day being always computed from evening to evening. *

* The article in Kitto's Cyc. (3rd edition), vol. iii. p. 425, calls this day, 'the preparation for the Passover,' and confounds it with John 19:14. But from the evening of the 14th to that of the 15th is never called in Jewish writings 'the preparation for,' but 'the eve of, the Passover.' Moreover, the period described in John 19:14 was after, not before, the Passover. Dean Alford's notes on this passage, and on Matthew 26:17, suggest a number of needless difficulties, and contain inaccuracies, due to a want of sufficient knowledge of Hebrew authorities. In attempting an accurate chronology of these days, it must always be remembered that the Passover was sacrificed between the evenings of the 14th and the 15th of Nisan; that is, before the close of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th. The Paschal Supper, however, took place on the 15th itself (that is, according to Jewish reckoning--the day beginning as the first stars became visible). 'The preparation' in John 19:14 means, as in verse 31, the preparation-day for the Sabbath, and the 'Passover,' as in 18:39, the whole Paschal week.

Then the head of the house was to search with a lighted candle all places where leaven was usually kept, and to put what of it he found in the house in a safe place, whence no portion could be carried away by any accident. Before doing this, he prayed: 'Blessed art Thou, Jehovah, our God, King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and commanded us to remove the leaven.'

And after it he said: 'All the leaven that is in my possession, that which I have seen and that which I have not seen, be it null, be it accounted as the dust of the earth.'

The search itself was to be accomplished in perfect silence and with a lighted candle. To this search the apostle may have referred in the admonition to 'purge out the old leaven' (1 Cor 5:7). Jewish tradition sees a reference to this search with candles in Zephaniah 1:12: 'And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles.' If the leaven had not been removed on the evening of the 13th, it might still be done on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan. The question what substances constituted leaven was thus solved. The unleavened cakes, which were to be the only bread used during the feast, might be made of these five kinds of grain--wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye--the cakes being prepared before fermentation had begun. Anything prepared of these five kinds of grain--but only of these--would come within range of the term 'leaven,' that is, if kneaded with water, but not if made with any other fluid, such as fruit-liquor, etc.

Time of its Commencement TOP

Early on the forenoon of the 14th of Nisan the feast of the Passover may be said to have begun. In Galilee, no work was done all that day; in Judea it was continued till mid-day; the rule, however, being that no new work was to be commenced, though that which was in hand might be carried on. The only exception to this was in the case of tailors, barbers, and those engaged in the laundry. Even earlier than mid-day of the 14th it was no longer lawful to eat leaven. The strictest opinion fixes ten o'clock as the latest hour when leaven might be eaten, the more lax eleven. From that hour to twelve o'clock it was required to abstain from leaven, while at twelve it was to be solemnly destroyed, either by burning, immersing it in water, or scattering it to the winds. To secure strict obedience and uniformity, the exact time for abstaining from and for destroying the leaven was thus made known: 'They laid two desecrated cakes of a thank-offering on a bench in the porch (of the Temple). So long as they lay there, all the people might eat (leavened); when one of them was removed, they abstained from eating, but they did not burn (the leaven); when both were removed, all the people burnt (the leaven)' (Pes. i. 5).

Choice of the Lamb TOP

The next care was to select a proper Paschal lamb which, of course, must be free from all blemish, and neither less than eight days, nor more than exactly one year, old. Each Paschal lamb was to serve for a 'company,' which was to consist of not less than ten, nor of more than twenty persons. The company at the 'Lord's Passover Supper' consisted of Himself and His disciples. Two of them, Peter and John, the Master had sent early forward to 'prepare the Passover,' that is, to see to all that was needful for the due observance of the Paschal Supper, especially the purchase and sacrifice of the Paschal lamb. Probably they may have purchased it in the Holy City, though not, as in the majority of cases, within the Temple-court itself, where a brisk and very profitable traffic in all such offerings was carried on by the priests. For against this the Lord Jesus had inveighed only a few days before, when He 'cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers' (Matt 21:12,13), to the astonishment and indignation of those who would intensely resent His interference with their authority and gains (John 2:13-18).

Slaying of the Lamb TOP

While the Saviour still tarried with the other disciples outside the city, Peter and John were completing their preparations. They followed the motley crowd, all leading their sacrificial lambs up the Temple-mount. Here they were grouped into three divisions. Already the evening sacrifice had been offered. Ordinarily it was slain at 2:30 p.m., and offered at about 3:30. But on the eve of the Passover, as we have seen, it was killed an hour earlier; and if the 14th of Nisan fell on a Friday--or rather from Thursday at eve to Friday at eve--two `63 hours earlier, so as to avoid any needless breach of the Sabbath. On the occasion to which we refer the evening sacrifice had been slain at 1:30, and offered at 2:30. But before the incense was burned or the lamps were trimmed, the Paschal sacrifice had to be offered. *

* According to the Talmud, 'the daily (evening) sacrifice precedes that of the Paschal lamb; the Paschal lamb the burning of the incense, the incense the trimming of the lamps' (for the night).

It was done on this wise:--The First of the three festive divisions, with their Paschal lambs, was admitted within the Court of the Priests. Each division must consist of not less than thirty persons (3 x 10, the symbolical number of the Divine and of completeness). Immediately the massive gates were closed behind them. The priests drew a threefold blast from their silver trumpets when the Passover was slain. Altogether the scene was most impressive. All along the Court up to the altar of burnt-offering priests stood in two rows, the one holding golden, the other silver bowls. In these the blood of the Paschal lambs, which each Israelite slew for himself (as representative of his company at the Paschal Supper), was caught up by a priest, who handed it to his colleague, receiving back an empty bowl, and so the bowls with the blood were passed up to the priest at the altar, who jerked it in one jet at the base of the altar. While this was going on, a most solemn 'hymn' of praise was raised, the Levites leading in song, and the offerers either repeating after them or merely responding. Every first line of a Psalm was repeated by the people, while to each of the others they responded by a 'Hallelujah,' or 'Praise ye the Lord.' This service of song consisted of the so-called 'Hallel,' which comprised Psalms 113 to 118. Thus--

The Levites began: 'Hallelu Jah' (Praise ye the Lord).
The people repeated: '
Hallelu Jah.'

The Levites: 'Praise (Hallelu), O ye servants of Jehovah.'
The people responded: '
Hallelu Jah.'

The Levites: 'Praise (Hallelu) the name of Jehovah.'
The people responded: '
Hallelu Jah.'

Similarly, when Psalm 113 had been finished--Psalm 114:

The Levites: 'When Israel went out of Egypt.'
The people repeated: 'When Israel went out of Egypt.

The Levites: 'The house of Jacob from a people of strange language.'
The people responded: '
Hallelu Jah.'

And in the same manner, repeating each first line and responding at the rest, till they came to Psalm 118, when, besides the first, these three lines were also repeated by the people (vv 25, 26):

'Save now, I beseech Thee, Jehovah.'
'O Jehovah, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity'; and
'Blessed be He that cometh in the name of Jehovah.'

May it not be that to this solemn and impressive 'hymn' corresponds the Alleluia song of the redeemed Church in heaven, as described in Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6?

The 'Hallel' TOP

The singing of the 'Hallel' at the Passover dates from very remote antiquity. The Talmud dwells on its peculiar suitableness for the purpose, since it not only recorded the goodness of God towards Israel, but especially their deliverance from Egypt, and therefore appropriately opened (Psa 113) with 'Praise ye Jehovah, ye servants of Jehovah'--and no longer of Pharaoh. Hence also this 'Hallel' is called the Egyptian, or 'the Common,' to distinguish it from the great 'Hallel,' sung on very rare occasions, which comprised Psalms 120 to 136. According to the Talmud, the 'Hallel' recorded five things: 'The coming out of Egypt, the dividing of the sea, the giving of the law, the resurrection of the dead, and the lot of the Messiah.' The Egyptian 'Hallel,' it may here be added, was altogether sung on eighteen days and on one night in the year. These eighteen days were, that of the Passover sacrifice, the Feast of Pentecost, and each of the eight days of the Feasts of Tabernacles and of the Dedication of the Temple. The only night in which it was recited was that of the Paschal Supper, when it was sung by every Paschal company in their houses, in a manner which will hereafter be explained.

Completion of the Sacrifice TOP

If the 'Hallel' had been finished before the service of one division was completed, it was repeated a second and, if needful, even a third time. The Mishnah remarks, that as the Great Court was crowded by the first two divisions, it rarely happened that they got further than Psalm 116 before the services of the third division were completed. Next, the sacrifices were hung up on hooks along the Court, or laid on staves which rested on the shoulders of two men (on Sabbaths they were not laid on staves), then flayed, the entrails taken out and cleansed, and the inside fat separated, put in a dish, salted, and placed on the fire of the altar of burnt-offering. This completed the sacrifice. The first division of offerers being dismissed, the second entered, and finally the third, the service being in each case conducted in precisely the same manner. Then the whole service concluded by burning the incense and trimming the lamps for the night.

When all had been finished in the Temple, the priests washed the Great Court, in which so much sacrificial blood had been shed. But this was not done if the Passover had been slain on the Sabbath. In that case, also, the three divisions waited--the first in the Court of the Gentiles, the second on the Chel, and the third in the Great Court--so as not needlessly to carry their burdens on the Sabbath.

But, as a general rule, the religious services of the Passover, like all positive religious injunctions, 'made void the Sabbath.' In other respects the Passover, or rather the 15th of Nisan, was to be observed like a Sabbath, no manner of work being allowed. There was, however, one most important exception to this rule. It was permitted to prepare the necessary articles of food on the 15th of Nisan. This explains how the words of Jesus to Judas during the Paschal (not the Lord's) Supper could be misunderstood by the disciples as implying that Judas, 'who had the bag,' was to 'buy those things' that they had 'need of against the feast' (John 13:29).

Our Lord's Celebration of the Feast TOP

It was probably as the sun was beginning to decline in the horizon that Jesus and the other ten disciples descended once more over the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. Before them lay Jerusalem in her festive attire. All around pilgrims were hastening towards it. White tents dotted the sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or peered out from the gardens and the darker foliage of the olive plantations. From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the smoke of the altar of burnt-offering. These courts were now crowded with eager worshippers, offering for the last time, in the real sense, their Paschal lambs. The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with a first sight of the Sacred City for which they had so often longed, or else once more rejoiced in view of the well-remembered localities. It was the last day-view which the Lord had of the Holy City--till His resurrection! Only once more in the approaching night of His betrayal was He to look upon it in the pale light of the full moon. He was going forward to 'accomplish His death' in Jerusalem; to fulfil type and prophecy, and to offer Himself up as the true Passover Lamb--'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' They who followed Him were busy with many thoughts. They knew that terrible events awaited them, and they had only a few days before been told that these glorious Temple-buildings, to which, with a national pride not unnatural, they had directed the attention of their Master, were to become desolate, not one stone being left upon the other. Among them, revolving his dark plans, and goaded on by the great Enemy, moved the betrayer. And now they were within the city. Its Temple, its royal bridge, its splendid palaces, its busy marts, its streets filled with festive pilgrims, were well known to them, as they made their way to the house where the guest-chamber had been prepared for them. Meanwhile the crowd came down from the Temple-mount, each bearing on his shoulders the sacrificial lamb, to make ready for the Paschal Supper.

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